|Issue No 25||06 August 1999|
International And Community Groups Oppose Reith’s Bill
By David Chin
Minister Reith has managed to unite a wide range of international and community groups in the common purpose of opposing his new Bill to amend the Workplace Relations Act.
The perversely titled Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (More Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 1999 has excited opposition from groups as disparate as pensioners and students, lawyers and academics, doctors and unions.
This groundswell of opposition signals a growing fatigue from the broader national and international community with the Howard Government's continued assault on the unions and workers rights in this country.
The Australian National Committee of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) is building on the ILO's recent finding that the Workplace Relations Act is in breach of international labour standards.
ICTUR is preparing for the coming Senate Inquiry into the Bill and will draw upon the expertise of Professor Keith Ewing from the University of London, who is currently visiting Australia. Professor Ewing was a key architect of the post-Thatcher labour relations reforms introduced by the Blair Government in the UK.
"Having the assistance of people like Professor Ewing and John Hendy QC of the London and Sydney bar will be a great advantage in our efforts to persuade the Senate that it must not let this obnoxious piece of legislation get through. We are determined not to let Australia become more of an international outlaw than it already is, courtesy of Minister Reith" said David Chin, Secretary of ICTUR.*
Also, the Community Action Group (CAG) was originally formed to oppose the introduction of a GST and has now turned its attention to the Reith Bill. Composed of members from the pensioner's association, students, retired trade unionists and others the CAG is mobilising to oppose this further attempt to disable unions.
The CAG has organised a public forum on this issue to be held on Tuesday 10 August 1999, at 6.00pm, at the Government Transport Social Club, Regent Street, Chippendale. At this forum, entitled "Defend Our Unions - Defend Our Services", there will be speakers from the Parents & Citizens Federation of NSW, ACOSS (Michael Raper), the Doctor's Reform Society (Con Costa), and the CFMEU (John Sutton).
Lawyers based in Sydney are also working on detailed submissions for the Senate Inquiry into the Reith Bill later this year.
Jim Nolan, a Sydney barrister, said "A group of concerned lawyers are getting together to prepare arguments against the Bill to amend the Workplace Relations Act, focussing on breaches of basic Human Rights standards."
* ICTUR will have its Annual General Meeting in Melbourne on Thursday, 12 August 1999, followed by a dinner at which Professor Ewing and Dita Sari will speak. Dita Sari is a leading Indonesian trade unionist recently released from prison, having served 3 years of a 5 year sentence for inciting Indonesian workers to strike for better pay and conditions. For details contact David Chin by email at: mailto:email@example.com
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